American firms rule the $398 billion global arms industry: Here's a roundup of the world's top 10 defense contractors, by sales

Key Points
  • American defense firms are the indisputable top producers of the world's weapons.
  • From combat ships to hypersonic missiles to fighter jets, Lockheed Martin remains the world's top arms manufacturer.
  • Total weapons sales by Russian firms came in second. For the first time, a Russian company appeared in the top 10 alongside European and American corporations.
A Huey door gunner unloads on a target at the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 2, 2013.
U.S. Marine Corps photo

WASHINGTON — American defense firms are the indisputable leaders of the world's $398 billion arms sales industry, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, also known as SIPRI.

In 2017, weapons sales from the top 100 companies totaled $398.2 billion, a 2.5 percent uptick from 2016 and a third year of growth for the industry. (The total excludes China, due to a lack of available data on which to make a reasonable or consistent estimate," according to the report.)

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"The overall growth in arms sales of the Top 100 in 2017 was driven by increases in arms procurement spending by several states, in particular the United States and Russia," the report's authors wrote.

Total weapons sales by Russian firms came in second. For the first time, a Russian company appeared in the top 10 alongside European and American corporations. The arms sales of the 10 Russian companies amounted to $37.7 billion in 2017, which accounts for 9.5 percent of total top 100 arms sales.

Here's a roundup of the world's top 10 defense firms, by sales.

10. Almaz-Antey

A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
Sergei Malgavko | TASS via Getty Images

Arm sales: $8.6 billion

Country: Russia

For the first time, a Russian weapons supplier appeared in the top 10 of SIPRI's annual list. Almaz-Antey, Russia's largest arms company, increased its weapons sales by 17 percent in 2017 to $8.6 billion, according to the report.

Almaz-Antey is the manufacturer of Russia's S-400, a mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system, which has lured foreign military buyers.

The S-400 is the Kremlin's answer to America's Patriot missile system made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin's THAAD platform. At least 13 countries have expressed interest in buying the S-400 instead of American alternatives despite the potential for triggering U.S. sanctions.

9. Leonardo

The AgustaWestland AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter used in both military and civil applications.

Arm sales: $8.9 billion

Country: Italy

Leonardo has a portfolio ranging from helicopters to missiles to drones. Formerly known as Finmeccanica, Leonardo is the largest of only two Italian defense contractors to rank in the top 100 arms companies in the world. Leonardo also manufactures equipment for non-military space programs.

The firm brought in $8.9 billion in 2017 arms sales, which accounts for 68 percent of the company's total revenue.

8. Thales

French troops are seen with a 81mm mortar.
Thales Group

Arm sales: $9 billion

Country: France

As one of the largest defense contractors in Europe, Thales produces a variety of weapons systems ranging from armored vehicles to missile defense to navigation equipment.

Thales' arms sales of $9 billion account for about half of its total 2017 revenue. In 2017, the French firm raised weapon sales by nearly seven percent from the year prior.

7. Airbus Group

An Airbus Eurofighter Typhoon operated by the German Air Force is seen.

Arm sales: $11.3 billion

Country: Trans-European

Airbus Group, the second largest defense contractor in Europe, brought in $11.3 billion in arms sales in 2017. The weapons contracts account for only 15 percent of the company's $75 billion 2017 revenue, however. The bulk of the firm's revenue comes from commercial aircraft and its space unit.

The company's most recognizable military product is the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet, a collaboration between the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain. There are 546 jets Eurofighters in operation today.

6. General Dynamics

Marines from 4th Tank Battalion, Twentynine Palms, Calif., roll down a dirt road on their M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during a day of training. 
U.S. Marine Corps photo

Arm sales: $19.5 billion

Country: United States

General Dynamics, known in part for America's stalwart M1 Abrams tank, brought in $19.5 billion in 2017, down slightly from $19.6 billion the previous year. The M1 Abrams has been used in nearly every major U.S. conflict since its inception in 1980 and still serves as the main battle tank for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

The firm's arms sales represent 63 percent of total sales. General Dynamics brought in $31 billion overall in 2017.

5. Northrop Grumman

A KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft refuels a B-2 Spirit aircraft with the 509th Bomb Wing over Kansas Aug. 29, 2012.
U.S. Air Force photo

Arm sales: $22.4 billion

Country: United States

Northrop Grumman saw a 2.4 percent increase in 2017 sales to $22.4 billion. In June, the aerospace and defense tech firm acquired rocket maker Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion. The deal allows Northrop to expand its foothold in the space market, an area where Orbital ATK has played a dominant role.

In October, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman $792 million to develop a domestic launch system prototype. Per the award, Northrop's work on its OmegA Rocket is expected to be completed by 2024.

4. BAE Systems

A prototype of BAE Systems' Amphibious Combat Vehicle for the U.S. Marine Corps.
BAE Systems

Arms sales: $22.9 billion

Country: United Kingdom

BAE Systems remains the UK's top arms producer and saw growth of 3.3 percent in its 2017 sales. Notably, nearly 30,000 of BAE's 83,000 employees work for an American subsidiary.

This past summer, the defense firm won a U.S. Marine Corps contract to build the next amphibious combat vehicle. The contract is expected to amount to $1.2 billion.

3. Raytheon

In this handout image provided by the German Bundeswehr armed forces a patriot missile Raytheon MIN-104 is seen during the Battle Griffin 2005 excersise on February 25, 2005 in Bodo, Norway. 
Andreas Freude | Bundswehr via Getty Images

Arms sales: $23.9 billion

Country: United States

Raytheon is the world's top manufacturer of guided missiles and a leader in missile defense systems.

The defense giant saw a 2 percent increase in 2017 sales to $23.9 billion compared to sales in 2016.

Raytheon's portfolio includes the Patriot missile system, a combat-tested platform that has become the backbone of European ballistic missile defense. Outside of Europe, Raytheon's Patriot system is operated by nine nations.

2. Boeing

U.S. Navy Aviation Electronics Technician signals to the crew of an EA-18G Growler on the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
Department of Defense photo

Arms sales: $26.9 billion

Country: United States

The gap between America's top two defense firms, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, widened by $18 billion in 2017.

"The fall in Boeing's arms sales can be partially attributed to delays in the delivery of KC-46 tanker aircraft and the end of deliveries of C-17 transport aircraft," analysts wrote in the report.

However, Boeing's arms sales only account for 29 percent of the aircraft manufacturing giant's total 2017 company sales.

In 2018, Boeing bagged a significant number of Pentagon contracts. In the month of September alone, Boeing was awarded more than 20 contracts with a cumulative value of $13.7 billion.

1. Lockheed Martin

Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Arms sales: $44.9 billion

Country: United States

From combat ships to hypersonic missiles to fighter jets, Lockheed Martin remains the world's top weapons manufacturer.

In 2017, the Bethesda-based arms giant brought in $44.9 billion in sales, an 8.3 percent increase from 2016.

This year, Lockheed Martin snatched both of the Pentagon's new hypersonic weapon contracts and continued delivery of its F-35 fighter jet, America's most expensive weapons system.